My husband and I recently returned from a 5 day trip to Rio-Iguassu. It was too a short trip considering we flew all the way from NYC, but it was totally worth it.
Thursday: Arrived AM and took a taxi to JW Marriott - Copacabana. Take the taxis inside the airport, you don't save anything taking a metered taxi and you could even get a cash discount. We had hired Martha Vasconcellos and she very kindly offered to meet us and give us ideas on what we should do on the arrival day even though our services with her started the next day. We really appreciated that! It was a great day so we took a taxi to Christ the Redeemer. It was a great sight but not very enjoyable given the mad rush of tourists. Had dinner at Zaza Tropical in Ipanema - absolutely wonderful!! Please..please try this wonderful cozy place with delicious food. Martha arranged for taxis for us so we never felt unsafe while traveling and always had a taxi for us when we were ready, which was great.
Friday: Rainy day so Martha picked us up in a car and we did a tour of the Tijuaca Forest and then hiked for an hour in the forest. It was great!! Lunch at Confeteria Colombo in downtown. Very beautiful and huge sandwiches!! Martha gave us a walking tour of downtown, including Selaron Steps, which was wonderful. Being a local and a tourist guide she knows everyone! At Selaron steps, at the local markets..etc and it was good to get special treatment :)
Dinner at Porcao, overrated and the waiter insisted we try a liqueur after dinner and naively we thought it was on the house...how foolish - we paid $10 per drink!! And telling the manager only got us a timid sorry!!
Saturday: Breakfast at Cafe Cafeina at Ipanema, wonderful - don't miss, great food!! Walked along Ipanema beach, great to watch locals chilling, eating, playing....wish we had done more of that. Took a bus to Sugarloaf, at first I was in 2 minds about going up Sugarloaf having done Christ the Redeemer but I have to say it was Sugarloaf that got me to fall in love with Rio. It was just beautiful, really the 2 vantage points are very different and I don't recommend missing any of them. Sugarloaf is more relaxed, has more seating space and great coffee. Had to skip Niteroi coz it was raining. Dinner at Aprazivel in Santa Teresa - again just wonderful!! I absolutely disliked the mushroom lasagna I had ordered and they immediately changed it and replaced it with a great salad and side. Next stop Rio Scenarium, a great way to mingle with the locals and enjoy local music. The place is really interesting and is spread along 3 levels. It was an antique store and it filled with the most unique items which make it fun to even just walk around as if it were a museum. Martha helped us arrange the trip and we were supposed to get front row seats, which we had to give up coz we were late.
All in all, Rio is a beautiful city, wish we had been there longer. We regret missing Santa Teresa. We drove through it while going to Aprazivel and we wished we had spent an afternoon there. I suppose we have to make another trip. We had heard that Rio was very dangerous but we never really felt unsafe, but that could be because we were adequately cautious - no fancy jewelry, watches, basic cash and no walking down poorly lit streets. It also helped that Martha had arranged taxis and given us enough tips on how to stay safe. On that note, I'm glad we had Martha to show us around. She was great but we thought her rates were little high given that she charges $20/hr during a walking tour but the clock keeps ticking even while you stop for lunch. I guess it's good to have her if you have little time and are worried about crime but we are unlikely to hire her if we go back since we are now familiar with the city.
Sunday: AM flight to Iguassu. Got there and hired a taxi at the airport to take us to the Brazil side of the falls and then to drive us to Sheraton in Argentina. He charged us 160BRL. Seemed fair but the driver was such a great guy, even though we didn't speak the language he did his best to point out sights and suggest activities. Stopped on the way at the Macuco Safari - the boat that takes you to the brazilian side of the falls. Great trip!! We realized only later that it's muchhh cheaper to do this on the Argentinean side and the trip lasts longer, so if you want to do just one then skip this one.
Spent 2 hrs walking through the Brazilian-side. Please wear comfortable, waterproof shoes and please carry a poncho/or rain-wear, you will be wet several times. Drove to Sheraton, hotel lobby looks like it was recently renovated and rooms were clean. Dinner was delicious and since there is little to do outside the hotel we had enough time to enjoy it.
Monday: Walked to the falls and just for this we are so glad we stayed here. Saved us loads of time and money on taxis. Leave at least 2 hrs to enjoy the Upper Circuit walk and take pictures. I imagine it would take another 2 hrs minimum to enjoy the Lower circuit walk which has more steps and is more wet. Add another hour for the boat trip. Alas we had to skip those.
The falls can be done in 2 days but 3 or even 4 days would mean having time to explore the Bird park and the rainforest region in general. We are so glad we did the falls, a relaxing and different experience after the hustle of Rio.
Thanks to everyone who helped us plan our trip!!